Second Language Learning Theories, Myths and Facts
Dec 1, 2009 English as a Second Language (ESL) 5884 Views
Second language learning refers to the learning of a new language besides the native language. There are many second language learning theories that aim to explain the way second language is learnt and which approach is the best. A brief explanation of these theories is as below:
1. The Behaviorist Theory: under this theory it is believed that the second language learning learner tries to imitate what he hears and practices the second language regularly to develop habits in the language. This theory also believes that learners try to relate their knowledge of the native language to the second language and this could lead to positive as well as negative results. However the imitation of one language with the other is not appreciated as this does not help in real life situations.
2. The Cognitive theory: this theory elaborates the learner's ability to use his cognition skills in order to work out in the second language on his own. They try to notice a pattern and based on this make their own rules and if they are faulty, they change them accordingly. Here the learners are benefited in the sense that they constantly learn from their mistakes. However this theory has certain problems, one of them being that the learner not only makes use of his cognitive skills to make assumptions about the second language but are due to the rules based on the native language. Also it is not always sure what the person learning the second language meant to say, determination of error becomes slightly difficult.
3. The Critical Period Hypothesis: as per this theory, there is a certain period in the life of a person in which he must learn a language. Once this period is over, second language learning becomes nearly impossible. The basis on which this theory is based is that the brain is fully developed by puberty and hence language learning becomes extremely difficult after this. Therefore this theory is of the view that second language learning must always occur before puberty when the brain is still in the developmental stages. However the theory has some exceptions as many people are able to master the vocabulary and syntax of a second language after puberty.
4. the Natural Order Hypothesis: according to this second language learning theory the acquisition of second language occurs in a natural and predictable order and is the same for the native and the second language. It shows that whatever the background of the learner, some of the errors made by them are similar to what they make when learning their native language.
Second language learning myths
Myth 1: the best way to learn the second language is by going to the country.
Myth 2: the best way to speak a language is to speak it.
Myth 3: It's okay to make mistakes
Myth 4: As a beginner, you are sure to make mistakes.
Myth 5: as a foreigner, you would always have a foreign accent.
Myth 6: if you did not learn a language as a child, you would never be proficient in its grammar
Myth 7: study of pronunciation is not important.
However the facts are entirely different from these myths and one must not base his second language learning on these myths and make use of consultations, self-study kits and avoid mistakes to be proficient in the second language.